The Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum. What structure in Rome better exemplifies the awesome influence of the Roman Empire at the height of its power? There’s no more recognizable structure in all of Rome. Of course, we couldn’t miss it.

Excuse me, Mr. Tree, can you move a little to the right please? No, my right. Ah, never mind.

Neither could anyone else. We made our way there the next day by way of a nearby cafe (three cappuccinos to start the day off right), after having slept in until almost Noon. The rest of Europe was already in line for tickets.


Fortunately, Tiff had researched earlier that the Colosseum tickets are combined with the Palatine Hill Museum, so we walked down the street and bought our tickets there.

On our way back to the Colosseum, we walked past the Arch of Constantine, which is notable because the majority of its sculptures were “borrowed” from other monuments.

A monument in Italy, under repairs. Well, there’s a first time for everything.

You don’t get to be rich and powerful like the Romans by wasting money.

Across a stone piazza is an old temple to Venus, where only portions of the dome that formed the inner sanctum remain.

Venus is the goddess of love. Roma spelled backwards is amor… love! The coincidence was not lost on the Romans.

Anyway, we felt pretty smug as we walked past all the people standing in line to buy tickets, and as quickly as we could walk there, we were inside.


I was struck by just how much the interior of this thousands-of-years old structure felt like any other stadium. The crush of tourists inside likely helped with this feeling, but in general the architecture just seemed very familiar. I suppose we may have borrowed a few ideas when building football and basketball arenas.


The first thing that surprised me is that it’s not actually all that big. I mean, it is big, but where the “playing” surface would have been is probably the size of a basketball court.


There’s a fun thought… what would the Roman Basketball League have looked like? Tonight’s matchup between the Roman Legionnaires and the Cretins of Sparta… Spartans of Crete.

This will sound really hokey, but it reminded me of walking out on to the field in marching band.

The Colosseum is very nearly 2000 years old. The Romans built it as a form of crowd control through public entertainment. The idea was that, if the citizens had free access to events (particularly violent combat), this would sate their hunger for violence and prevent civil uprisings. For the most part, it worked very well.

The crucifix marks the location of the Emperor’s box. This is where the rulers of the Roman Empire sat.

The structure was designed to host a large variety of events. We all know it for the gladiator battles, but animal hunts, reenactments of historic battles, and naval skirmishes were also hosted here. The naval battles were only possible during the early years of the Colosseum; once the stone structure of the hypogeum was added, it was no longer possible to waterproof the structure.

Remnants of the hypogeum

With the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity came the rejection of such violent forms of entertainment. The Colosseum fell into disuse and neglect, as the public largely moved on. Rather than repurpose the building, it was left to rot, possibly due in some part to public shame over the events that occurred there. The Middle Ages saw the Colosseum become a source of resources, with most of the marble being removed for other projects. At one time, there were statues in every exterior arch. Now, they are all empty, their previous occupants lost to time.


All that remains is the ultimate in ruin porn.



There are great views of the area from the Colosseum as well.


One thing I was surprised to learn was that the Colosseum was originally built of brick, with a marble veneer. I had always thought that the brick was repair work, but evidently I was wrong.


Also, why is it that the Romans can make a brick building survive 2000 years of neglect, but brick buildings today crumble in 1/20th that time?


Further evidence that the Italians have forgotten more about construction than the rest of the world has ever known.

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